ELT Expert: Software Recommendations for a Computer Lab/Learning Center for ELT

Recommended Software

This website has been created for use by English language teachers and institutions internationally. It is based on what is current as of March, 2009. Given the volatility of software, availability of all packages should be checked before purchase.


Certain factors affect what is selected for a computer lab/learning center. These include:

The basic recommendations here are for a self-study lab that can also be used for specific classes, designed primarily for teens and adults (software for children is noted where it applies), with 10 stations (or laptops in a mobile lab), reasonable Internet access, and a moderate amount of money to spend. Additional suggestions are made for those with more funding. The recommendations also assume that there is someone available to serve as a CALL trainer and that technical support is available. Decisions about software and hardware should be made in conjunction with the people who are expected to use them and those who are expected to maintain them.

Approx. cost: Low cost = less than $75 for a single program; moderate cost = $75-$200; expensive = more than $200. This section also lists whether the product is available at network, lab, or site pricing.
Platform: M= Macintosh; W = Windows
The operating system options are specified for each program.

Productivity software – for any lab

These are foundational programs that should be installed on each machine in the lab and on administrator/teacher computer, except as noted. All stations should have a word-processor, spreadsheet, database, web browser, PDF reader for Acrobat-format documents, and anti-virus protection software. Freeware options are available for most if not all of these functions. As a result, lab managers can feel comfortable in using non-commercial programs without feeling pressured to spend a lot of money on commercial software or to use pirated software (a bad idea for a number of reasons, including higher susceptibility to viruses and other malicious software.) Additional help in learning to use a mouse or in improving typing should be available on at least some machines. A record-keeping system such as that within Moodle is useful if the lab has its own server and technical support to set up a course management system. While most people will use a web-based email program, it may be helpful to have an email program that allows the user to work offline, then batch send and receive messages. Virus software must be on every computer and kept up to date at least daily, if not hourly. Page ii has some suggestions for additional sources of freeware, shareware, and commercial virus protection software.

Platform Title/Website Publisher/Description Approx. Cost
M/W Open Office
Open Office Foundation
Word-processing, presentation, spreadsheet, database, drawing program. Choose this or Microsoft Office to install on all computers. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
M/W Microsoft Office
Word-processing, presentation, spreadsheet, database. Choose this or Open Office to install on all computers. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
Price varies by region
M/W Firefox
Web browser. Good to install this and Internet Explorer on all computers. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
W Internet Explorer
Web browser. Good to install this and Firefox on all computers. Download the latest version from http://www.microsoft.com/. Windows 98/XP/Vista.
W Avira AntiVir Personal

Virus protection software. Some form of virus protection must be installed on all computers and ideally made available for lab users. The free version of AntiVir is not updated as frequently as the commercial one. This can also be given to students and faculty. Download from http://www.free-av.com/. Commercial versions of the software for home or office use (Avira AntiVir Premium and Avira Premium Security Suite) are also available from the website. Windows XP/Vista.

Freeware for home use; low per-unit cost
W Windows Movie Maker
Compile and edit digital movies. (Macs come with iMovie, which does the same thing.) Download from http://www.microsoft.com/. Windows 98/XP/Vista.
M/W Acrobat Reader
Read PDF files. This program should be on all computers. Download from http://get.adobe.com/reader/. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
M/W Acrobat
Read and create PDF files. At least one computer should have the Pro version in order to be able to modify PDF files and create fillable forms. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
Moderate cost
W Basic Mouse Skills
Grey Olltwit
Basics of using a mouse for those with no mouse experience. This may not be needed if all lab users are already accustomed to using a mouse. Install on computers as needed. Windows 98/XP.
Low cost
W Tidy Up
Grey Olltwit
More mouse practice for those just learning to use a mouse. This may not be needed if all lab users are already accustomed to using a mouse. Install on computers as needed. Windows 98/XP.
Low cost
W Kiran's Typing Tutor
Kiran Reddy
Extensive typing program with typing games. Includes a module for children; supports multiple users. Install on all computers. Download from the website. Windows XP/Vista.
M/W MasterKey
Typing tutor with game. This can use the drills that are included or add plain text files and ebooks. Record-keeping; individual or network use. Install this on at least some computers if using Macs. Download from the website. Windows XP/Vista; Mac OS X.
Shareware $20
M/W Moodle
Server-based course management system. This allows the site to create courses or a check-in system for use of the lab. Install this if you have a server that you will use for the lab AND if you a) plan to offer courses or b) plan to track use of the lab by having users check in, using this program. This is open-source software, freely distributed. It can be downloaded from http://www.moodle.org/. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X .
M/W Thunderbird
Email client. Mail can be downloaded and read off-line or online. This may be most useful on an administrative computer rather than on each lab machine – it should be set up with IMAP rather than POP mail for best results. This is freely distributed open-source software. It can be downloaded from http://www.mozilla.com/2. Windows XP/Vista; Mac OS X.
M VMware Fusion
Software that allows Macintosh computers to run Windows applications. This is a strong recommendation for Macintosh labs in order to use a wider range of software. Buy Parallels or VMware Fusion. Mac OS X.
Moderate cost

Comprehensive programs (multiple skills)

These are programs that offer sequenced lessons that work on multiple skill areas. The least expensive programs, those from ESL Pro Systems, have workbooks in PDF format and some on-computer activities. These would work well for learners who prefer to work at home as well as in the lab. Issues in English from Protea Textware uses videos to set the scene for other activities. New Dynamic English is the most extensive and expensive of the options listed here. It includes help files in a number of languages, and is most useful in a self-study setting where help is offered in a local language. DynEd’s model assumes that there may be a teacher who will supervise use of the program, though learners can use it on their own as well.

Platform Title/Website Publisher/Description Approx. Cost
W Issues in English 2
Protea Textware
North American and international English. Intermediate to advanced. Video dialogues and interviews form the basis of instruction, with a substantial set of listening, reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and pronunciation activities. This is a good, reasonably-priced option to install on at least some computers in a lab. Windows Me/2000/2003/XP/Vista.
Moderate cost; network, site
M/W New Dynamic English
Various Englishes. Eight-module listening-based course on DVD, CD-ROMs, or online. The package includes courseware, assessment, teacher training, supplemental activities and exercises, and support. Includes speech recognition for answers. The level of difficulty of the questions adjusts to the student's demonstrated proficiency. The index of lessons is useful for self-paced instruction. Some native language help files are available. Appropriate for teens or adults. This is a well-planned, comprehensive, but expensive option. Windows 98/XP/Vista; Mac OS 9/X.
Expensive; online option
M/W Learning English Series
ESL Pro Systems
Series of workbooks covering intermediate grammar, reading, writing and listening. Each workbook includes instruction on the key concepts and practice exercises with answers provided. Each workbook is in PDF format so students can work with exercises directly on the computer or print a portable hardcopy. This is a good choice for a low-cost lab or when just starting out. Windows 2000/XP; Mac OS 9/X.
Low cost
M/W Learn and Play Sets
ESL Pro Systems
Four CD-ROMs with PDF workbooks and computer-based activities. The box set includes: Learn & Play Grammar Set, Learn & Play Listening and Spelling Set, Learn & Play Vocabulary Set, and English Practice Games Combo CD-ROMs. CD-ROMs can be purchased separately. This is appropriate for children. Windows 2000/XP; Mac OS 9/X.
Low cost
W English Tutor
ESL Pro Systems
This set includes grammar, reading, writing, and listening Learning English workbooks (PDF format); ESL PRO, a pronunciation drill and practice program; and the 1000 Key English Words and Idioms guide. Each workbook is in PDF format so students can work with exercises directly on the computer or print a portable hardcopy. Windows 2000/XP.
Moderate cost
M/W Rosetta Stone
(adults or children)
Fairfield Language Technologies
Learners respond to spoken, written or visual prompts with voice, text or mouse-click. Speech recognition technology records and evaluates pronunciation. This program can be used standalone or as part of classroom instruction. Audio files are included for use on a CD or mp3 player. Levels are generally bundled in networked solutions, though individual levels are available. This is a more traditional pedagogy, but with good visuals, audio, and video. Windows 2000/XP/Vista; Mac OS X.
Expensive; network, site; online option

Specific Skills Programs



Background - Assumptions

References for more information

Publisher listing (for software recommended here)


Last updated 30 June 2010 by Deborah Healey
Contact Deborah Healey: dhealey at uoregon dot edu
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